The protected area comprises nearly 9,000 acres of sea and mangrove at the north end of the Drowned Cayes, just a few miles east of Belize City . The sanctuary is co-managed by Friends of Swallow Caye and the Belize Forest Department. Check out www.swallowcayemanatees.org  for more information, including membership, tours, and manatee facts.
Many tour operators will take you to Swallow Caye, usually for US$60 per person, but Chocolate’s Manatee Tours (tel. 501/226-0151, chocolateseashore [at] gmail [dot] com) is the original. Chocolate is a local legend in the ecotourism trade; he was the first guide to take people on trips to Swallow Caye to see manatees, and he was instrumental in the creation of this sanctuary in July 2002. He has also earned environmental and tourism awards for providing quality trips to hundreds of tourists per season.
The all-day excursion stops first in an open area where it is possible to approach manatees in their element. After viewing the manatees for an hour or two, Chocolate heads to the tiny white-sand island of Sergeant’s Caye for snorkeling. If Choco-late is not going out, try other tour guides on the island—they offer similar trips.
From Belize City this trip is combined with snorkeling on the barrier reef and looking for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Park fees are US$5 pp.